For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel. Ezra 6:22
A seven-day party—that ought to get our attention! For Israel it had been a stop-start effort to get the temple rebuilt. Finances had been a factor on and off. Overall, however, they had favor from many rulers. Nehemiah said, “And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.” This was king Artaxerxes. Ezra had enjoyed similar favor from Cyrus, king of Persia—“the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia.” Later Darius said, “The expenses of these men are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury…so that the work will not stop.”
This support from what some today would call “high net worth donors” was only part of the picture. The giving of Cyrus was aimed to stimulate the giving of all Jews: “And the people of any place…are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings.” After Cyrus said this, then the people responded and even the people who did not plan to live in the location themselves gave: “all their neighbors assisted them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings.” This in turn prompted Cyrus to give some more. When they arrived in Jerusalem some “heads of the families gave freewill offerings.” We know that heads of families are like business owners today, as well as heads of nuclear families.
Of course they experienced some opposition from Xerxes and, initially Artaxerxes, but eventually he got on board with God’s program. Darius also supported them, and finally the job was done. This led to the seven-day party.
This dance between givers who spurred each other on to generosity had an impact in the spiritual realm: God got behind their efforts. He obviously initiated everything, he gave favor with kings, and as Haggai puts it, even when man had done everything God said, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine.”
God is our source, no question. But isn’t it amazing how he gives us the opportunity to invest where he is investing, to give where he is giving, and to bless what he is blessing? No one piece of the puzzle was enough. God did not drop gold bars from heaven, although he could have; the kings did not do everything, although they could have funded it all; and the rebuilders themselves could not make it happen on their own. Government, heads of households, and everyday givers…they all gave what was ultimately God’s to receive. Today we are still part of this age old way of God moving the hearts of men and women to generosity.
What is your role?
The portions differ, the heart is the same, and each part is needed for God to do his part.